Facebook icon Twitter icon Forward icon

                                 March 30, 2019



House appropriators could begin making decisions on fiscal 2020 spending bills as early as late April, Roll Call reports. Facing doubt that a budget resolution would pass, the House may set top-line numbers with a combination of legislation raising discretionary spending caps and what is known as a deeming resolution. Appropriations Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.) would then divide those topline limits into subcommittee allocations, according to Roll Call. Separately, some observers expect the Democratic-led House to raise domestic discretionary spending by about two percent above current enacted levels. The GOP-controlled Senate is thought more likely to use FY 2019 levels as a basis. In both chambers, such numbers would mean disregarding the deep cuts in the Trump administration budget and would improve prospects of a bipartisan budget deal. The White House blueprint, reflecting "the deeply conservative agenda at the core of Trump’s administration," has Republicans "on the defensive," the Washington Post reports. The president has begun to distance himself from the more unpopular aspects of the budget, reversing proposed defunding of the Special Olympics.

'VERY NAIVE': That's how Rep. José E. Serrano (D-N.Y.) described the administration's proposal to zero out "three longstanding programs within NASA’s Office of Education that help inspire the next generation of scientists." The Bronx congressman, who chairs the Commerce, Justice, Science appropriations subcommittee, intends "to provide robust funding for these programs." He also faulted a $602 million cut from current levels to NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, a $151.2 million cut in Earth Science, which studies the impact of climate change, and the administration's intent to eliminate the Wide Field InfraRed Survey Telescope.

SUDDEN PROGRAM SHIFTS: Serrano, Congress's longest serving Hispanic, has been diagnosed with Parkinson's and does not plan to run again in 2020. But he still watches the electoral calendar, and questioned whether NASA's aggressive effort to speed up launch of the Space Launch System comes "in response to political pressure." Administrator Jim Bridenstine denied that, saying the June 2020 date had been set years ago. But even with an accelerated schedule, he didn't think a launch by June of next year "is in the cards." The administration hopes to send astronauts back to the moon in 2024, a plan strongly pushed by Vice President Pence.

A NEW MANHATTAN PROJECT: Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) invokes America's hidden World War II drive to build an atomic bomb in promoting a five-year project "to put our country and the world firmly on a path toward clean, cheaper energy." The "secret weapon" he has in mind is "our extraordinary capacity for basic research, especially at our 17 national laboratories." He says "the federal government should double its funding for energy research and keep the United States number one in the world in advanced computing." Those are two of his 10 "grand challenges." The others are  breakthroughs in advanced nuclear reactors, natural gas, carbon capture, better batteries, greener buildings, electric vehicles, cheaper solar, and fusion. As chair of the Senate Energy and Water appropriations subcommittee, he is well-positioned to move them forward. CQ quotes him as saying, "We don’t need a big new law to do this.”

CUTS TO DoD BASIC AND APPLIED RESEARCH: While the FY 2020 Pentagon budget would increase overall R&D by 9 percent, "the increases are concentrated in accounts funding late-stage development, prototyping, and testing activities," reports the American Institute of Physics' FYI Bulletin. "Meanwhile, funding for earlier-stage R&D activities that comprise DoD’s Science and Technology program — Basic Research, Applied Research, and Advanced Technology Development — would drop 12 percent to $14.1 billion. DOD has requested S&T funding each year that is higher relative to its previous requests, but Congress has consistently surpassed these amounts in final appropriations." The Coalition for National Security Research, to which ASEE belongs, is asking Congress "to provide not less than a 5.9 percent increase over FY 2019 enacted levels" for University Research Initiatives (which funds Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative and Defense University Research Instrumentation Programs); Defense Research Sciences; High Energy Laser Research Initiatives; DTRA Basic Research Initiatives, and Basic Research. See CNSR's updated budget and appropriations chart.


'DESPERATELY' SOUGHT RECOVERY MONEY: The Air Force says it needs nearly $5 billion over the next three years to rebuild Tyndall and Offutt Air Force Bases--both severely damaged by weather disasters, Government Executive reports. If it doesn't get $1.2 billion by June, pilot training hours and projects at bases in 18 states will have to be cut.

NSF, AMAZON TEAM UP ON AI 'FAIRNESS': The agency and e-commerce giant commit up to $10 million each in research grants over the next three years, with the goal of "contributing to trustworthy AI systems that are readily accepted and deployed to tackle grand challenges facing society," the National Science Foundation says. "Advancing AI is a highly interdisciplinary endeavor drawing on fields such as computer science, information science, engineering, statistics, mathematics, cognitive science, and psychology." Find out more.

$36 MILLION FOR SOLAR-GRID RESILIENCE: Seven universities and several companies will share research money intended to "advance solar energy’s role in strengthening the resilience of the nation’s electricity grid," the Department of Energy says. "With more and more solar being added to the U.S. electricity generation portfolio, these projects will enable grid operators to rapidly detect physical and cyber-based abnormalities in the power system and utilize solar generation to recover quickly from power outages, in many cases without human control." See the winning projects.


Source: American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), "R&D in the FY 2020 White House Budget: An Overview"


The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the downward trend in international higher education raises difficult questions: "Was the work of giving students a global education stymied because it failed to get buy-in beyond the true believers? Was internationalization championed out of convenience – international students contributed $39 billion to the American economy and shored up the budgets of many recession-pressed colleges – more than conviction? Was the rhetoric impassioned but the embrace only lukewarm?"

Source: Chronicle of Higher Education


RESKILLING AMERICA'S WORKFORCE: A workshop by the Business Higher Education Forum and National Science Foundation concluded that the nation needs "a STEM-capable U.S. workforce that leverages the hard work, creativity, and ingenuity of women and men of all ages, all education levels, and all backgrounds." ParticIpants, including ASEE representatives, recommended:

  • Support creation of education ecosystems, pathways, and workforce partnership models that result in dissemination and wide-spread take-up of research findings by the broader community.
  • Plan and implement new federal programs and activities focused on STEM-capable workforce development, diversification, and reskilling.
  • Facilitate coordination both internally within each federal agency and externally across all agencies on workforce development.
  • Create a clearinghouse of policies, best practices, and recommendations for state and local governments to align and leverage federal legislation related to STEM, STEMcapable, and broader workforce-related topics. Read the full report.


COASTAL CALAMITY TO COME: Eric Rignot, an aerospace and elecrtical engineer, chair of the Department of Earth System Science at the University of California -  Irvine, and a senior research scientist at Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, delivered his verdict at the outset of a talk at the National Academy of Sciences entitled "Sea Level Rise from Melting Ice Sheets, and What We Should Do About It." "I don't think you need to run for the hills. But -- I would walk." Watch the video

See also: Framing the Challenge of Urban Flooding in the United States.

And: Together We Can Do Better: A Gathering of Leaders in Academia to Prevent Sexual Harassment



Apply Today: Challenging Implicit Bias Train the Trainer Program

Receive the tools and training needed to prepare and deliver implicit bias workshops at your institution with the new train the trainer program Training for Action: Challenging Implicit Bias. This three-part program will commence with a full-day workshop on June 15th in conjunction with the 2019 ASEE Annual Conference. Applications open now! Learn more and apply: https://goo.gl/NSQMwF

New Two-Part Webinar Event: Engineering Inclusive Classrooms

Join us for a new two-part webinar event to learn actionable strategies for engineering inclusive classrooms. During this event, Dr. Tershia Pinder-Grover (University of Michigan, Center for Research on Learning and Teaching in Engineering) will explore classroom climate, discuss key principles behind inclusive teaching, and provide attendees with techniques for engineering inclusive classrooms. Registration is free for ASEE members! Learn more and register for Parts 1 and 2 at http://www.asee.org/webinars

Department Chairs' Best Practices

Register for the 2019 Chairs Conclave–taking place June 16th in Tampa, FL–to connect with department chairs and learn the best practices of successful chairs. Topics covered include leadership skills, department culture, faculty evaluations, and entrepreneurship for chairs. The Chairs Conclave is an exclusive forum for engineering and engineering technology department chairs to exchange ideas, talk through challenges, and build working relationships. Learn more and register today–seating is limited–at https://chairsconclave.asee.org.


The 2019 Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity (CoNECD) conference will be held April 14–17, 2019, at the Marriott Crystal Gateway in Crystal City, Va. (future site of Amazon’s HQ2). ASEE members qualify for a discount.
Click here to register


Check out scores of listings geared to engineering educators on ASEE’s Classifieds Website.

SIGN UP FOR THE EARLY-BIRD REGISTRATION RATE at ASEE's 126th Annual Conference, June 15 - 19, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. The conference features more than 400 technical sessions, with peer-reviewed papers spanning all disciplines of engineering education. Click here to register.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE ACCELERATOR: ASEE's free monthly newsletter for undergraduate and graduate students has a wide array of resources: scholarship and internship/co-op listings, student news and essays, podcasts, professional development resources (e.g., advice on how to get an internship and how to make the most of it), and academic advice - plus entertaining engineering videos. Tell your students! Click here to subscribe. Send content to Jennifer Pocock at j.pocock@asee.org.

FIRE UP THE FUTURE WITH eGFI: Filled with engaging features, gorgeous graphics, and useful information about engineering colleges and careers, the latest edition of ASEE's award-winning Engineering, Go For It is sure to get your students excited about learning - and doing - engineering!

Order Your Copies